By Chris Wilson, RKC, CPT, CSN
This may sound too good to be true but this is no gimmick.
Before I reveal the trick to performing better, let me explain how you are damaging your body without you even knowing it. In order to help you improve at your sport, I first need to share with you why your body is not functioning optimally.
It’s safe to say that if our spine is being abused every day, our ability to perform at a high level is jeopardized. I think most people would agree with that simple assessment.
A majority of us sit too much, look at a cell phone repeatedly and use a laptop or PC every day.
Those things alone don’t sound problematic to most people and that’s why this issue is so scary. When we total up all that time spent in poor posture, it is much easier to understand why we might be causing our body some serious stress.
This poor posture is commonly known as forward head position or forward head posture. Sadly enough it also has another less medical sounding name, “texting neck.”
If you’re an athlete or attempting to become one, this message could make or break how you approach your training.
In order to move the body effectively, things like your joints, organs, muscles and nervous system need to respond to what your brain is telling them. Ultimately, our physical output is compromised due to prolonged periods of forward head posture and our performance will come up short of what it could do.
Because the ONE thing you must do every day all day long to perform and survive is you must BREATH.
Breathing doesn’t sound sexy or groundbreaking but I can promise you that if your lung capacity is not where it could or should be, you’re costing yourself physical excellence.
In studies it has been concluded that Forward Head Posture has been linked to a decrease in respiratory muscle strength which in turn affects your ability to breath and significantly reduces your lung capacity by an astonishing 30%.
Without sounding too medical, FHP causes the muscles in the neck area to be compromised and this actually limits the function of the first rib when breathing. If you can’t inhale very well you’re not going to break any records in your sport.
So that means that even if you only have a subtle issue with FHP, you’re still robbing yourself of achieving peak performance. Oxygenated the blood is crucial in order to supply your muscles with everything they need when it counts.
By Chris Wilson, RKC, CPT, CSN
Are you a Belieber? I certainly am. But not in the way you might think.
I “beliebe” Justin has horrible forward head posture after seeing that police profile picture that became famous not that long ago due to his accentuated head position and his childish behavior.
I admit I did laugh at first but I also realized something else much more troublesome about that photo.
Unfortunately, Justin Beiber’s profile image is not unique. His extreme forward head position is a very common and very scary problem plaguing millions of people around the world.
In today’s tech crazy world, people are attached to their cell phones, tablets, kindles and laptops nonstop. It’s unlikely this will change anytime soon, in fact it will only worsen. Go just about anywhere and you will see at least half the people communicating on one of these gadgets even when in the company of others.
It doesn’t even stop there since this poor head position is commonplace when driving a car or sitting in front of our home computers.
I’m no different, my cell phone goes everywhere with me and I drive several miles per day in my car.
So why is technology quickly destroying our posture, namely our head posture?
The answer is that a majority of us use poor body position while engaging in cell phone or computer activities and while driving. Our head is typically in a forward leaning position or on many occasions looking downward.
This is commonly known as Forward Head Posture or FHP.
This position all by itself isn’t necessarily bad since our body is designed to move in many different positions but we begin to cause some serious trouble when this is repeated and sustained for hours per day.
With repetition, this head movement is rapidly hurting our neck muscles and cervical spines. Without getting too technical, we have created a huge imbalance in the muscles that support the head. The muscles on the anterior or front of the neck called the sternocleidomastoid and scalene muscles have become over used. Because of this dominance, they have tightened up.
In contrast, the posterior muscles of the neck (like the upper trapezius) have weakened from inactivity. Since everything is connected in the body, you can imagine the kind of domino effect this has on other things like the shoulders, pectorals and mid-back.
The good news is that you are in good company since 99% of America either uses a cell phone, drives a car or sits for hours at a computer every day. We are in this fight together.
The Big Question: Is It Possible to ‘Undo’
All of This Damage?
By Chris Wilson, RKC, CPT, CSN
Athletes from high school to the pros have a few things in common besides speed and muscle.
For one, they are focused on doing whatever it takes to maintain and improve their performance and this requires the proper mindset. While some may go too far to get an edge on their competition, others seek out ways to naturally boost their level of play and increase their mental toughness.
Secondly, these same talented, hardworking individuals do something else every day that destroys their ability to excel and it’s NOT what you think.
In an age when cell phones and tablets dominate our lives along with an excessive amount of sitting, it’s safe to say that our posture is suffering big time. This constant looking down to text throughout the day or craning over a keyboard for hours at a time puts the body into awful alignment causing forward head posture otherwise known as “texting neck.”
What’s scarier is even the most elite athletes can suffer from this ugly and physically limiting posture.
Surely you’ve heard the phrase, the mind is the body and the body is the mind.
All this means is that our mental and physical connection is so powerful that one can greatly influence the other.
Here’s an example to illustrate this point:
Let’s say you’re running for distance and your body begins to fatigue as you lose your form and you tell yourself, “there’s no way I can finish this.”
Chances are, you won’t. You just told yourself you couldn’t.
But if you’re mental state is strong you will maintain a more rigid upright posture and use positive, confident words like, “this may suck right now but I’m tougher than this and I’m going to make it!”
What really changed in these two scenarios? Simply the language you used when talking to yourself which instantly changed the way you carried yourself in that moment.
Regardless of what you’re doing in life, if you act strong and think strong, you will most likely ‘feel’ strong.
You may already be familiar with this kind of thing but what makes this response to improved posture even cooler is that there is real science proving this positive chemical reaction in the body.
A study by graduate students at Harvard and Columbia University concluded that displaying a ‘power-pose’ absolutely had effects on how the body functions. 
Basically Form = Function.
It Was Found that High-power Posers Experienced Elevations in Their Testosterone Levels With Decreases in Cortisol Levels
This also increased their feelings of power and tolerance for risk while low-power posers exhibited the opposite pattern.
In other words, if you’re slouching with your head down and arms closed off, chances are your feelings of self-confidence and power are at rock bottom. You don’t feel like a winner and therefore you won’t be a winner.
It’s very easy to look to nature or even the corporate world for more examples of this ‘power-pose.’
Think of images of a gorilla or elephant as they sit and walk confidently and proud across the land. They hold their head high and look out at the world showing their dominance.
How about the CEO of a company? He walks around the hallway tall and poised never closed off and hiding his body away. He wants his body language to scream success and determination to everyone he sees.
Holding a power-pose will boost muscle building testosterone levels, lower your stress causing and fat storing cortisol levels and increase your feelings of power and risk. All of those traits sound vital to achieving peak physical and mental performance as I’m sure you would agree.
This is why if you’re an athlete looking to perform at a high level, you always maintain a strong posture showing your opponent or onlookers that you’re ready and up to the challenge. This is not just for show, there are real hormonal implications involved.
So how do you ‘carry’ yourself?
In other words, when you walk into a room, into the gym or on the field, do you stand tall and confident with your head held high, shoulders back and chest forward? Or do you look down at the ground with your neck bent forward, back rounded and arms crossed?
The difference here is a gorilla neck versus a turtle neck.
Maybe you never gave it much thought before but now that you know how critical this ‘power-pose’ is, it’s time to act.
The study actually found that by holding a strong, powerful posture for just 2-minutes that it had tremendous impact on the subject’s physiological, psychological and behavioral state.
Here’s How to do the Movement and Quickly Get Yourself into a Position of Power
NOTE: You can do this movement from a standing or seated position. Example below based on seated.
- From a seated position, first tilt the pelvis forward creating a slight arch in the lower back which immediately helps to raise the chest.
- Then pull the shoulders down and back with your arms at your side.
- Next, lift the head and slightly tuck the chin making yourself as tall as possible.
- From this position you should now feel your back, glute and abdominal muscles working to hold you in this strong alignment.
- Begin by just holding this position for 5-10 seconds at a time and progress to holding it up to 2-minutes.
This can be done repetitively throughout the day helping to not only elevate testosterone and decrease cortisol but to also boost confidence, improve breathing and increase energy levels.
Do You Have Forward Head Posture?
By Chris Wilson, RKC, CPT, CSN
Have you ever seen yourself do a deadlift?
I don’t mean looking forward into a mirror since that doesn’t reveal much about your form. It’s from the side that you can really see what’s going on with your spine while pulling some weight.
So that you have a good understanding about what I’m going to discuss, do yourself a favor and set up a camera (or have a friend take a video) and record yourself doing a deadlift from the side. Get a couple of reps and watch yourself a few times.
What did you see? What did your head and neck look like from start to finish? Were you looking forward?
Regardless of techniques like conventional or sumo deadlift one thing must remain the same and that’s having a neutral spine. The spine of course is essential in all that we do and to maximize our performance, we need to be in optimal position as often as we can.
FHP or Forward Head Posture is a problem affecting approximately 90% of people in America. We look down so much at our cell phones, personal computers, tablets and don’t even realize the damage we are causing our cervical spine. It can also be found while driving since many people sit without ever using their head support. You are driving with forward head position.
With all of this ugly forward head position in our lives we create an imbalance in the muscles supporting the head. I think we can all agree that the head is fairly important in our lives so fixing this issue is imperative for not only improving performance but overall quality of life.
So now we go from this ugly forward head position or “texting neck” all day to the other extreme while executing the deadlift. Let me explain.
The nasty habit that is found in gyms across the world is that ‘head up looking at the horizon’ approach to deadlifting. As athletes, we are always told to ‘look ahead’ and ‘don’t drop your head’ and that is usually good advice in most sports but NOT when it comes to the deadlift.
When the body hinges at the hips in preparation to pull weight from the floor, the spine is no longer vertical but angled forward. The angle can vary from person to person but all things considered, the body is somewhere near a 30-45 degree angle just before the lift begins.
So why lift the head to look straight ahead? Because it just “feels” right and you’re so used to looking into the mirror or at the wall you don’t even realize you’re doing it.
But don’t be fooled, sometimes we let our eyes have too much influence over our bodies. In this stationary exercise, it is MUCH more advantageous to maintain proper spinal alignment which means our head lines up perfectly with our mid and lower back down to our hips.
There is a very simple test you can perform in minutes to FIX this technique problem. You will have to grab a friend to assist with this.
Place a foam roller or wooden dowel against your head, back and butt and have your buddy hold that in place as you go through a rep. The key is to keep all 3 points touching the stick or roller the entire rep. If the head, mid-back or glutes pull away from the object then that is what you need to fix. In most cases, it’s the head that’s the issue.
Here is why this is a problem.
Cranking the neck and lifting the head puts unnecessary pressure on the cervical spine and wastes energy that should be in the back, shoulders and hips. This ugly bending of the head to focus your vision on the horizon can lead to neck pain and a decrease in performance.
Since our neck holds our head on our body, I would say that placing it in uncompromising positions especially while performing maximal lifts is a very wise choice.
Avoiding ugly head position ensures proper breathing (unrestricted airway), better nerve messaging from the brain to the body and helps to avoid unwanted strains and pains that may occur in the muscles supporting your head like your traps, scalene and sternocleidomastoid muscles.
Your chin should stay tucked in the entire movement. The thing to remember is that you cannot have any leaks of energy. If your head is raised and your cervical spine is bent, that is a leak. You wouldn’t twist or rotate your head while doing a squat or bench press, would you? No.
The chin tuck from beginning to end helps your spine brace itself against the load and perform the deadlift in optimal spinal position. If the deadlift is important to you and you do it repeatedly, this simple correction could mean the difference in a new PR or a few extra reps on a heavy set.
This proper spinal alignment should become habit in all phases of your life. Tuck your chin and sit tall when working at your desk, driving your car or sending a text. Bring some balance back to your abused and damaged neck muscles and FIX your ugly forward head posture.
By Brian Klepacki, MS, CSCS, CISSN, FMS
It is pretty obvious that no guy wants to have man boobs and I’m not talking the Arnold Schwarzenegger kind either.
First off, they look awkward and as you know appearance means a lot to most people. Secondly, they are a sign that something hormonally is wrong with your body. Unfortunately many men do suffer from this issue and I can guarantee that if you ask any one of them if they would like breasts or not, none of them would want to have breasts.
We live in a society that glorifies looks. Especially for those in the population groups of early teens and aging men.
Your ‘looks’ are something that are often ‘looked’ at with very judgmental eyes, the judge being the individual. Then when you throw in something that is not natural looking in this demographic, there is only going to be negative feedback given from the individual and that will most likely lead to self-esteem issues.
It could possibly bring motivation as well since the individual might want to do something more about it. This could potentially bring one to focus more on improving their health, it could also mean that they eat better, but it also could mean that they need to reflect more on what brings satisfaction and real joy.
Unfortunately many people do take looks seriously but sometimes what’s happening on the inside is what really matters.
The medical term for man breasts is gynecomastia. Young boys with gynecomastia have shown lower scores on general tests of standard quality of life assessment, indicating problems in several areas. Even after adjustment for weight and body mass index (BMI), the patients had lower scores for general health, social functioning and mental health. They also had lower scores for physical health, but this was attributed to being overweight.
Breast enlargement can also be associated with lower levels of self-esteem in adolescent boys. This, along with impairment in emotional areas of quality of life, appeared directly related to gynecomastia, rather than being overweight.
Boys with gynecomastia also scored higher on a test of attitudes toward food and eating. However, there was no difference in the rate of clinical eating disorders between groups.
There is Good News Though if You or Someone You Know Has Male Breast Enlargement!
The good news is that gynecomastia is not always a true health threat. But with that said, you do not want to take this condition lightly. Certain conditions, even ones considered rare, should still be looked at by a professional to rule out any other health issues associated with gynecomastia.
In some men, it can be a sign of an overactive thyroid, cirrhosis of the liver, a genetic problem, or some cancers. One of the largest studies conducted to date pooled data from studies of about 2,400 men with breast cancer and 52,000 men without breast cancer and confirmed that risk factors for male breast cancer include obesity, a rare genetic condition called Klinefelter syndrome, and gynecomastia. The results of this work appeared Feb. 19, 2014, in the Journal of National Cancer Institute .
It was determined within this study that gynecomastia, independent from both Klinefelter syndrome and obesity, was associated with a 10-fold increased risk of breast cancer in men.
Gynecomastia can also be a sign of low testosterone and/or elevated estrogen levels. If you are unfamiliar with what testosterone does in the body it controls a variety of “man” functions that are pretty much exclusive to men.
Testosterone is a steroid hormone that stimulates development of male secondary sexual characteristics, produced mainly in the testes, but also in the ovaries and adrenal cortex. Functions like growth of body hair and sexual function are also impacted from testosterone.
Low testosterone is diagnosed when levels fall below a normal range (300 – 1000 ng/dL). A myriad of symptoms can occur if testosterone production drastically drops. Signs of low T (also called hypogonadism) are often subtle and can be mistaken for a natural part of aging.
Because testosterone plays a role in the building and strengthening of muscle, men with low testosterone might notice a decrease in both muscle mass and strength.
Those who try to prevent the muscle loss through weight training might find it difficult to build and repair muscle. Men with low T may also see increases in body fat. Hence, leading to what could potentially be gynecomastia if left untreated or uncontrolled.
Although the reasons behind growth of fat tissue within the breasts are not completely clear, research suggests that testosterone influences the way your body stores fat in this area of the body.
Certain medications can also cause gynecomastia and when you start taking different types of medications there are obvious side effects with anything that is foreign to the body. There are side effects from steroids like enlarged breasts and a tender puffy nipple area which is fairly common among many high level competitive bodybuilders.
You definitely want to be aware of the side effects for whatever drugs you are taking either over-the-counter or prescribed. Do your research and make sure these effects are acceptable. If you have enlarged man breasts, seek professional care and confront the issue as soon as possible.
By Brian Klepacki, MS, CSCS, CISSN, FMS
I’ll confess up front: I have some pretty bad posture.
But I know I need to work on it and I do (I really do) make an effort in trying to stay in perfect alignment in all that I do. It’s been bad ever since I was in high school and most likely even longer than that.
Having good posture is one of those things that everyone keeps in the back of their mind as something they know they should have but never get around to working on. Kind of like eating more vegetables and saving more money.
It is estimated that 66% to 90% of people suffer from forward head posture. The chances are very good that you suffer from it as well, just like I do. (Griegel-Morris 1992)
Even as I’m sitting here writing this to you I keep forcing myself to adjust my body in my seat. It’s amazing how quickly things change just by simply scooting your butt back in your chair and sitting up tall. And it’s amazing how quickly the body deteriorates by not adjusting your posture and falling into the slouched position forcing the head to extend further than it should.
So let’s look at the many ways posture impacts the musculoskeletal and neural systems within the body:
We ALL care about how we look and to some even more important is how we look to each other. Appearance is the very first thing people measure when first meeting someone, interviewing for a job or going out on a date.
Just by standing or sitting up straight, you change your appearance to one of instant confidence and security. It is impossible to feel low or sad when you are upright and smiling. Think of those in royalty, those on the silver screen, and those divas gracefully walking the catwalk. These talented individuals are boasting long lean necklines, head held straight, shoulders square, not shrugging up or slumped down.
You will portray confidence and enthusiasm that is very VERY attractive to a large number of people. Slouch, slump and frown and see how you look – disheartened, bored, tired, old and fat.
Forward Head Posture or ‘turtle neck’ as some call it will quickly rob you of your height up to two inches and add you’ll look 5-10 pounds heavier than you are. If you’re slouched over with your head in a forward position, your appearance is instantly affected negatively.
What’s more appealing to you, one who is slouched over in a closed off position or one who is standing tall with a sense of confidence in how they look? That’s a no brainer. Everyone should agree on that one.
A 2010 study that Dana Carney, a social psychologist at UC Berkeley, co-authored a study that was among the first to demonstrate a link between body positioning and brain chemistry. It showed that when people took on “power poses” – standing in various postures reflecting confidence (chest up, shoulders back, head raised), regardless of whether they felt confident – it increased levels of testosterone and lowered levels of cortisol in the brain.
And as you may or may not know, testosterone is a hormone associated with self-confidence, the development of male reproductive tissue, as well as promoting secondary sexual characteristics such as increased muscle mass and bone density.
Whereas cortisol is often referred to as the “stress hormone”, which has been linked to rapid and unwanted fat gain.
Interestingly enough, by moving from a head forward posture into a powerful and strong posture (as seen in the comparison pictures below) for 2 minutes can increase testosterone levels by 20% and decrease cortisol levels by 25%. (Carney 2010)
Forward Head Posture or (FHP for short) in particular has been shown to lead to a decrease in the strength in the muscles involved in the breathing process which will decrease your breathing and can reduce your lung capacity by 30% (Kapreli 2009) (Dimitriadis 2013).
A head forward posture leads to a decrease in cervical lordosis which blocks the action of the hyoid muscles, especially the inferior hyoid, which is responsible for lifting the first rib during inhalation.
FHP can also lead to the blocking of your airway while you sleep leading to a decrease in oxygen to your brain when sleeping and a decrease in the quality of your sleep overall. (Ozbek 1998).
When the airway is blocked or obstructed, snoring and noisy mouth breathing will occur and the statistics for this problem are widespread and alarming. Approximately 45% of the population snore and 1 in 4 people are habitual snorers.
This of course can be caused from multiple things like smoking, drinking alcohol, excessive body weight among other things but ultimately it’s due to the tissues and muscles in and around the throat area breaking down and/or failing.
As previously mentioned, having forward head posture creates an imbalance in the muscles surrounding the throat and this can lead to a poor or obstructed airway inducing snoring or noisy mouth breathing.
Due to the misalignment of your head and torso, your airway can become blocked when you sleep which starves your brain of oxygen, severely disrupts sleep quality and leads to snoring.
Another common and very serious issue is sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is also caused from an obstructed airway but is the more severe breathing related issue compared to snoring and noisy mouth breathing.
With this disorder, the airway becomes so blocked that breathing is limited or stopped all together causing the individual to wake up gasping for air. This of course is a very frightening problem to have and it affects thousands of people all around the world.
All things considered, having a forward head posture can kill the quality of your sleep and you’re more likely to suffer from snoring, noisy mouth breathing and sleep apnea when you have FHP.
Without the rest you need your work, relationships and energy levels will be negatively affected.
Vigor and Alertness:
Dutch behavioral scientist Erik Peper has put in extensive research into this area. He regularly makes participants in his lectures stand up and stretch all while maintaining a picture-perfect posture, for similar reasons why exercise has been linked to happiness, like here:
Here are three fascinating things that happened the instant our posture changes:
- When we sit up straight with our chin elevated and retracted inward, we are more likely to remember positive memories or think of something positive in general, according to Peper’s personal experiments.
- Recent research found that 92% of people found it easier to generate positive thoughts in an upright posture compared to a slouched posture. (Wilson 2004)
- Another insight was that if we move dynamically (skip, jump, run, etc.) during breaks, we can significantly increase our energy levels. A slow, slumped walk with rounded shoulders and a dropped head on the other hand (similar to texting while walking), can do the exact opposite and drain us of our energy.
So How does this happen? Why does a forward head with rounded shoulders affect us so much?
When the head is forward over the spine, the brain may not be receiving sufficient blood flow, nerve impulses, and oxygen due to compression of the carotid arteries and surrounding nerve endings.
If this compression is severe enough, it can result in a central nervous system dysfunction. And the scary part is that it doesn’t take much to cause a restriction within this part of the body.
As is always the case with the body, when one link in the chain is broken or damaged, the strength of the whole chain is weakened. FHP not only negatively impacts appearance, hormone regulation, breathing and energy, it also can be linked to digestive issues, harmful effects on your vision and hearing, decrease your range of motion and even cause dizziness and balance issues.